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Monday, May 4, 2009

Examiner Backpedaling On Screaming Zodiac Killer Front-Page Headline -- Fast

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2009 at 12:01 AM

Wanna mulligan on this one?
  • Wanna mulligan on this one?
We're trying not to give a hard time to our journalistic colleagues more than we should. You don't need to be religious nor Christian -- and we're neither -- to glean the wisdom of Matthew 7:1 -- "Judge not, that ye not be judged."

That being said, our relatives from Brooklyn (that'd be all of them) would put it this way: "I'm entitled to my own goddamn opinions."

So we're going with the latter and wondering -- out loud -- what the hell the Examiner was thinking when it announced in huge letters on its front page last week: "ZODIAC KILLER TO BE NAMED."

You needn't be a professional journalist to spot the problems with that headline. There's a reason stories use terms like "alleged" and "claims"; simply put, this Ex headline expressed a degree of certainty that, to put it mildly, was not warranted.

Following last week's carnival-like press conference, SF Weekly documented how Deborah Perez' claim her father was the Zodiac Killer was made alongside a lawyer spokesman who had been disbarred that month, while her other lawyer had a run-in with the SEC in 1992 and paid out more than $50,000 in an insider trading settlement -- and the handwriting expert touting her claims also stands to benefit as the producer of an upcoming documentary. But that's just for starters.

The actual logistics of Perez' story don't seem to add up, and she pitched it to a true crime novelist

last year. Her half-siblings deny Perez' accusations and, finally, two

different sources have reported that Perez claimed in 2008 she was not

only the Zodiac Killer's stepdaughter -- but John F. Kennedy's illegitimate daughter. So, by the end of last week, it wasn't surprising to see the Examiner backing away from its bombshell of only days before. 

But it was odd that the paper had the temerity to act as if it had been suspicious of Perez all along after the certainty expressed in its earlier front-page fanfare:


"We're trained to be skeptical..." starts the blurb. Really? Might want to check the expiration date on that skepticism certification.

We've said it before: The Ex's local reporters are working hard and working well. The paper's political covereage reads how you'd expect a paper owned by a messianic right-wing billionaire to read, but nobody's perfect. But this Zodiac escapade is simply embarrasing for everyone involved. The throngs of reporters gathered at Perez' ridiculous press conference and the play this story received -- despite the ongoing Swine Flu coverage -- amply demonstrated that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

If wielded clumsily, both are a danger.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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